A Year in Review (Farewell 2017)

2017.

I’m pretty sure that last New Year’s Eve was only a couple of months ago. But I’m also certain that what has happened throughout this past year surpasses what could possibly fit into 12 months. And so this year must have been a lot longer and a lot shorter than most typical years and while that is not possible I am telling you, it must be.

This year, I had several very important conversations with myself. The first happened sometime in the middle of January when I said I was no longer going to spend my time on things that don’t fill me up because I could start to feel the cold move through the emptiness and I knew I needed to take responsibility for the damage. 12 months ago I was chasing things that I needed to decide I was going to stop running after, and I came to a screeching halt about 2 weeks later. I haven’t been perfect at this since then. But on that day, on the beach in mid-January, I gave up some things and I felt in that moment as though giving them up started to fill me up once again.

The second happened the day I decided to see a naturopath. Which was largely a decision that no matter how small my problems were, they were taking up far too large a space in my life and it was time that they were dealt with. Since then, I’ve been dealing with it – dealing with it better than I was for the better part of my whole life because now I’m not the only one sorting through the mismatched and messy puzzle pieces that build up my health.

In Europe I decided Vancouver was home, for right now. I decided that again when I got back in September amidst the chaos of settling back in. I decide that every single day that I’m home in Ontario and worry about leaving my family and friends all over again. Vancouver is home, for right now. And I am trying to remind myself that anything past right now, isn’t worth trying to make decisions about quite yet.

2017 began with my cousin writing Happy New Year in shaving cream on our friend’s shower wall. It began with countdowns and sparklers setting off smoke alarms, and an array of scattered New Year’s kisses. A year later I’m struggling to fathom all that has happened since last being in that Guelph townhouse when the clock struck midnight.

Trying to remember what it was like going back to Vancouver after the holidays one year ago feels surreal because I was in school then, and I’m not now, and it feels like just about everything has changed since then.

I went back and I spent a large portion of all my Friday’s getting my hair curled by a close friend while drinking wine on her bedroom floor before going out to a party or a pub night. We spent more time together than I think we even realize and when the cold weather broke for a nicer day she was the first person I headed to the ocean with to enjoy it. We talked about the men in our lives and referred to them as boys and we tried to sift through the overwhelming emotions we had carried with us into the new year – how to care and not care too much – the faults we felt were ours, the same ones we reminded each other had nothing to with us. This is what I remember from when the year started.

At the time I was still living in a basement suite in Brentwood. I was living alone and fighting off the lonely days because for the most part, I was completely in love with my solitude and I was afraid when it started to feel like that might start slipping away. Stress was coming in waves – on assignments, on graduating, on moving, on travelling, on what life was going to look like 5 months from then. I’ve always been told to take things one day at a time and I’m wondering how on earth that’s possible when you find your brain is running 76 days ahead of where you’re at.

None the less, I remember the day I came home from handing in my last assignment of the semester – my last assignment ever. I waited for the wave of freedom to hit but mostly felt as though it wasn’t real. That’s how it feels – when everybody asks how it feels to finish school and hand in your last assignment – it feels like you’re dreaming and it’s hard to tell when you’re actually going to wake up. I think it’s a pretty good dream though.

In May, just after I had finished my final semester of University, one of my closest friends got on a plane to come visit me on the West coast. She too, had just finished her final semester, and we were well equipped to celebrate our dream-like state. We spent several days trying to get as much mountain air as possible. I watched her eyes light up for mountain peaks, ocean waves, and chipmunks that crawl all over you. We ate the best fish tacos, drank wine and blared music in my bedroom, danced, hiked, and tried to hang on to one another as much as possible. Just over two years ago we were living together in a beautiful townhouse in Guelph, Ontario. Half a year ago we were climbing mountains and talking about all our favourite memories. Now, she’s living in Thailand, and I’m still in Vancouver, and we’re physically farther apart than we have ever been, but I am holding that time she came to visit as close to my heart as possible.

A couple weeks later my parents flew out to see me. Something about a graduation ceremony my mother demanded would not be missed. I love having my parents out in Vancouver, running to hug them in the airport and holding them in my arms for as long as I possibly can. Our time together was all too short but still very, very wonderful and graduation day made it into one of my top favourite days.

On graduation day I felt beautiful. Beautiful, special, and loved, and like I had finally achieved something I had spent years working towards. I walked across that stage in less than a few seconds before the next name was called, but those few seconds in a really strange way, were all I needed. My friends and I took photos after the ceremony and acted giddy and strange in all the right ways and I needed them that day.

There’s a video of me popping champagne on a picnic table in my friend’s backyard and I watch it every now and then. I love it because I look so genuinely happy – so excited – so calm. I was surrounded by so many important and wonderful people and there was this weird sensation that everything was just starting to completely and utterly change but if we could hang on to moments like these with people like them, the change would all be okay. That’s how it felt on graduation day.

I’ve been thinking about graduation though lately, and what it feels like after you graduate – after the dust settles from the big day. My theory is this:

Until you graduate university, you’ve spent almost the entirety of your life in school. So almost the entirety of your life has been carefully compartmentalized. It’s been divided into and characterized by school years and semesters, due dates, on-going assignments, university jobs that are strictly jobs you have in university, and so on. Everything has boundaries and can be measured within a decently short span of time – so short that you can see the beginning and the end quite clearly because it’s not often very far in the distance. So thinking ahead, will sometimes surpass those boundaries, but it is often relatively within them, or at least within one of them. When you’re mid-semester you might start thinking about next semester – or you’re nearing graduation so you’re thinking about that, but regardless your mind can’t quite run too far ahead yet.

When you graduate, the boundaries collapse. The carefully compartmentalized life crumbles and becomes its opposite, an open void of promise and opportunity, fear and anxiety, and there’s not much to stop you from thinking far, far ahead.

This is how I feel. And though I’ve grown accustomed to my brains ability to run much faster than the rest of me, after graduation it took off with a new found speed.

I don’t know what to measure my life with anymore, because the next job I get is not going to end simply because I graduate, because of ‘natural timing’. I will be responsible for the beginning and ending of new jobs from now on, in a way I wasn’t before. I will be responsible for the ways in which my life becomes defined by its different seasons. That can feel like a lot. It sure feels like a lot. I’m thinking about tomorrow and six years down the road and both are just as unfamiliar as the other so I know, I know there’s no point in dwelling too much past today but unlike being in school, it doesn’t feel like there’s near as much to stop me.

Graduation is a new kind of stress. A fun and exciting and intimidating part of life that can certainly keep you up at night, and I’d say the feeling of trying to figure out how to navigate that is the most characterizing aspect of my life right now.

The rest of the summer continued in a sort of magical excitement mixed with intense stress and confusion. It was beautiful sunny days and visits to the beach and trying to pack up my little apartment before I moved out. I could feel the change starting, moving in and around me but so slowly that everything still looked the same except half my things were in half-labelled boxes. This was the beginning of something, and the end of something else, but more than anything it was the in-between stage – the limbo – between the end and the beginning, and I was feeling the loss and excitement of everything.

Late June came fast and my parents visit, graduation, and packing flew by until I was heading to the airport to pick up my cousin. We’ve been best friends since we were children but somehow this felt like our first real adventure together. It was an adventure beyond what we were used to or comfortable with, and we were so ready for it.

I finished my job and that night we packed our back packs full and in the morning we took off for the island. Once in Nanaimo we rented a car from a dodgy rental company, hooked up the aux cord, and headed into the mountains with smiles stretching across our faces. I’m in love with that drive, and being on those winding mountain roads with my cousin was everything I could have wanted it to be.

Despite it being summer in Tofino the weather is actually quite cold which caused a few miscalculations which were probably mostly a product of too much excitement. One was the tent we bought, the cheap last minute purchase that failed to zip up fully and left a steady and very cold breeze through it all night. The other was the sleeping bag I brought – the one my mom had as a child, equipped with holes and all. So already, we were underprepared featuring an excessive grocery bill, and yet still beyond ourselves with excitement.

We spent those several days eating tacos and only half cooking all of our meals with a fire that only partially started. We walked on the beach, attempted surfing, got the worst sunburns we’ve probably ever had in our lives, and had some of the worst sleeps. And yet again, still loving it.

When we got back to Vancouver we continued to fill our days with hikes and visits to the water, drinks, and catching up. The 29th was my birthday, and the day before our flight home to Ontario together. We spent the entire day on the beach with friends, drinking cider and swimming in the ocean. It was perfect. Unfortunately, I regret that I don’t have near as much information on what took place after about 9pm, but what’s even more unfortunate is that my cousin does.

Needless to say, I had one of the greatest beach days I could have asked for and an all-around spectacular time with all my friends and family who had visited throughout those early months of summer. And on the 30th of June I shut the door to my first solo basement suite, and headed to the airport.

When I flew into Ontario I was very quick to realize that despite all the wonderful in my life at the time, I was not doing well. I won’t go into details, because I said enough of them in past posts and honestly there’s not much else to say. But I wasn’t doing well at all, and that absolutely terrified me. I had Europe fast approaching, my cousins wedding in just a couple weeks, and the lingering reminder that my cottage was selling, and I felt as though I couldn’t, and didn’t want to handle anything at all. I fell apart, several times, in my mother’s arms. Crying and trying desperately to figure out what was wrong with me and if it was all my fault.

My cousins wedding was a beautiful and spectacular celebration of love, and I felt honoured to have been a part of it despite my current emotional stability. Soon after I left for my cottage – a full week away with my parents, and our last time up before the cottage would sell. I found solitude that week, and I loved it with my whole heart. I started writing again, out on the hammock, feeling as though I could finally piece together the parts of me I hadn’t been able to figure out. I felt at peace, and after months and months of feeling its opposite, this peace felt unbelievably good.

My cousin came out during the week as well, and the two of us cherished our final days at our favourite place. We pitched her hammock up against two trees over top of the dock by the water. We turned up the music and drank ciders and mixed drinks making sure to ‘cheers’ every sip to an old memory. My parents sold the house I grew up in earlier in the year, and while I know that’s a big deal, it didn’t feel anywhere near as important as it did when the cottage was put up for sale. I grew up at the cottage – it was my sanctuary – my mother’s Eden. It was everything, and then we let it go.

Soon after that I got on a plane for London, England. One of the most surreal and confusing things I’ve ever done and I could not believe it was happening, and sometimes I still feel as though it was all a great and wonderful dream. Seeing my friend – my soul mate – who I hadn’t seen in over a year, was a gift I wouldn’t trade for anything. We spent over a month gallivanting through Europe with one another by our side, creating new memories and constantly reminiscing about the old. We spent that time catching up over all the times we had spent missing each other. I won’t go into too much detail about Europe because I’m desperately trying to work on the blog posts that will, but I will say this. Europe was amazing – it was a blessing – and I feel enriched to have experienced all that I did and more than that I feel beyond grateful to have experienced it with somebody that only logically makes sense to refer to as my soul mate.

The end of my Europe trip fell in line with the end of Summer, and when I came back to Ontario I was already trying to gather myself enough to prep for moving back to Vancouver. This process is exciting and thoroughly anxiety provoking for me. When I got back into Vancouver I spent my first week living with someone I am very happy to now refer to as my boyfriend. After that, I moved into a basement bedroom in a house full of my friends for the month of October. This frequent moving around and constantly searching for the next place to move to felt overwhelming – I was ready to ‘settle’ as much as I could.

And so I did – sort of. I found a place to live, a beautiful upstairs bedroom nestled in an adorable laneway house in Vancouver. I have spent the past couple months decorating it and falling in love with the comfort it had provided me even when life doesn’t feel so comfortable itself. The past couple of months in Vancouver have been strange – trying to navigate my life now that school is no longer in the picture even though it is the main picture for the majority of my West coast friends. It has been filled with fun and more stresses and lots of journal writing to say the least, but it is good, it is still good.

This year I learned things like,

A lot can change in three months, including but not limited to, my friends, relationships, cities, and me. I learned this when I got back to Vancouver at the end of September, and I’ve continued to learn this over the past couple months. None of this is bad, nor is it necessarily good. It is change, and change can be hard to adapt to, or at least it is for me. Nonetheless I have fallen for my little home, the new friends that I have gained even though one of them has now moved home. I have fallen more and more for best friend – my boyfriend – for the person who makes me laugh and reminds me to be silly and let go a little more. I am thankful for that.

Now I am home once again. Celebrating the holidays with my family and trying to focus on the ‘right now’ even though I have a natural tendency to imagine what my life is going to look like when I’m back in Vancouver.

This year, has been an incredible year. It has been a hard year – emotionally and physically. The year felt like I was in a constant state of inconsistency – of wanting things one moment that I don’t want the next – of planning out my future and then deciding I want the next several years to be unplanned – of enjoying this season of inconsistency and then wanting to rip it to shreds. I gave my mother whip lash from my back and forth conversations and my contradictory set of dreams and future plans. And I don’t like this back and forth – it’s exhausting. So maybe it’s a lot safer to say that I really just don’t know what I want in almost every aspect of life right now – but sometimes, however rarely, I do. My certainty has been shaken, my restlessness has been toyed with, and my heart has been dragged across this country until I didn’t know where I belonged, and I learned that this is okay. I am still learning that this is okay. This year I said goodbye to the house I grew up in and the cottage I ran to as often as I could. I made decisions that forced me to start filling myself up with things that were good rather than things that made me feel empty. I have made an unprecedented amount of surreal and amazing memories with friends both in Vancouver and here in Ontario and I am thankful for every single adventure, especially the overarching adventure of them all – my time in Europe. My life now, continues to feel completely and utterly uncertain – and I continue to be both bothered by that and almost okay with it. But as 2017 comes to a close, I would like to feel certain that this is all entirely, more than okay.

Out of all my Christmas’ at home since moving to BC, this has so far been the best. It has been the shortest, and yet felt the longest. It has been the least stressful, the most emotionally stable – the busiest, and yet, I’ve had the most energy. This Christmas season has been wonderful and I am beyond thankful for the time spent with great friends and wonderful family and I will hold this all close to me as I head back to another home and to a whole lot of unknowns.

All I know for sure is this:

A couple of days ago we drove North. Seven other girls and myself; we rented a log cabin on a small edge of Georgian bay and spent the better part of our too-short stay in the hot tub surrounded by inches upon inches of white fluffy snow.

I want to spend the rest of my life like I spent those 48 or so hours, and I don’t mean in the hot tub. I want us to go into 2018 feeling dazzled. Dazzled like us eight girls were when we found ourselves in the most beautiful log cabin with the most immense amount of perfect snow, staring out into a lake and holding one another close. We laughed and talked about everything under the sun and drank cheap drinks and ate great food and told each other how much we loved each other without having to say anything at all. I want to spend the rest of my life like that – feeling dazzled at the most innocent of things like perfect snow and cabins – laughing until it’s painful – holding one another close even when we aren’t close enough to touch each other anymore. There was so much love and admiration in that little log cabin and I want that, I want that forever.

So for this new year, for 2018, I hope you feel dazzled by something, and as much as possible. I hope you feel loved and I hope you make other people feel loved. I hope you play more card games, and do more silly things, and laugh as much as you possibly can. I hope you fill your life with love and conversation and honesty and laughter and good food and good wine and I hope it fills you up the way those two nights filled me up because it can sure go a long way to feeling more far more than just okay.

 

Xoxo Happy new year ♥

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